In his dream at the end of the story, the narrator attends a circus with his grandfather, who refuses to laugh at the clowns, no matter what they do. Later, his grandfather urges him to open his briefcase. Inside, the narrator finds empty envelope upon empty envelope. The grandfather explains that those envelopes symbolize the years of the narrator's life—full of empty promises. Finally, the narrator finds an envelope that contains a message, in letters of gold:
"To Whom It May Concern," I intoned. "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running."
This dream shows the reality underlying the humiliation the narrator had to undergo in order to get his college scholarship. He is forced ride the service elevator, to box blindfolded, he is humiliated by being exposed to a naked white woman, and he has to gather "gold" coins (which turn out to be worthless) on an electrified carpet. All of this is done in front of an audience of prominent white men. The narrator and his black peers are the clowns in this...
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